Throughout the day I was gratified to receive congratulatory notes from friends, colleagues and former employees on being named the “most liked CEO in Advertising,” by Owler, a crowdsourced business insights company. Owler runs a National Likeability Study with 167,000 executives across “a wide range of industries." I scored an 89.3 out of 100, ahead of such notables as Maurice Levy of Publicis, Martin Sorrell of WPP, Rich Battista of Time Inc. and Jonah Peretti of BuzzFeed.
I am really pleased to have been recognized in this way. I do feel that it is significant that two of the leaders of the PR industry, Andy Polansky of Weber Shandwick (No. 7) and myself, were in the top 10.
I have made it a point throughout my career to work on client business instead of slipping into an administrative or managerial role. Everybody is an account executive at Edelman. In fact, I am taking a client to four interviews on Friday. There can be no substitute for speaking truth to power… clients need us to be direct and substantive, not political and safe.
I am fortunate to work for a family business that can take the long view and invest ahead of revenue. I come in to an Edelman office wanting to see the work, to meet the people and yes, ultimately to understand the numbers. But ultimately, it is the CEO selfie that works every time, along with the Quit Smoking pledge, which has earned nearly 100 people a $2,000 cash bonus for improving their health.
I try to stay in touch with those who leave Edelman, with the goal of ultimately getting them to boomerang back home. For example, I would call Barby Siegel every year, just to see how she was doing. Eventually, she agreed to come back to run Zeno and has made the business grow by five times while winning Mid-Sized Agency of the Year almost annually.
A final point about culture; ours is meritocratic, hard-working and modest. The subway is the best way. The prize goes to the person willing to wake up early and put in the time necessary to get to excellence. But at Edelman we insist on a family approach, in which parents go to see their kids in plays, in sports and at home.
I am entering my 20th year as CEO of Edelman. I love my job because the client challenges are more complex than ever and our people more determined to deliver on the promise of creativity and execution. Thanks to all of you for making this possible.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.